9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – November 24th, 2021

Dear Friends
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 1

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 1

Recognising the unsung heroes from India’s tribal communities

Source: This post is based on the article “Recognising the unsung heroes from India’s tribal communities” published in the Indian Express On 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 1: The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.

Relevance: Understanding the sacrifices done by tribals in the Indian freedom struggle and the need to empower them.

News: Union Cabinet has approved 15th November as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas to remember the contributions of tribal freedom fighters for the country. This date was chosen as it is the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda who is revered as Bhagwan by tribal communities across the country.

Also read: Remembering Birsa Munda on Janjatiya Gaurav Divas
What are the tribal contributions to the Indian freedom struggle?

Several tribal communities like Paharia, Chuar, Kol, Bhil, Ho, and others fought against British policies which adversely impact their social and economical frameworks and destroy their natural resources. Among the various movements, some are:

Mangarh hill massacre: It is also known as the “Jallianwala Bagh massacre of the Vagad region“. The movement is led by Bhil social reformer and spiritual leader, Govind Guru. On November 17, 1913, the Britishers gunned down more than 1500 Bhils on Mangarh hill on the border of present-day Rajasthan and Gujarat, where the innocent people have gathered here for social causes under the leadership of Govind Guru.

About Govind Guru: He started working with the Bhil community during the great famine of 1899-1900. He advocated systematically fighting social problems such as liquor consumption and intergenerational debt. He initiated the Bhagat Sampradaya (sect) in 1908 to socially and morally uplift the Bhil community.
What Indians should learn from tribal communities?

1)  Preserving indigenous art, culture, environment and forests 2)  Tribals have a better sex ratio (990) than the national average (940). Girl child is more welcome in these communities 3) Dowry is less prevalent.

What are the various mechanisms that exist to safeguard tribal interests?

Fifth and sixth Schedule: For the upliftment of tribal communities. Representation of these communities has been ensured at the parliamentary, assembly, and panchayat levels.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs: Separate ministry has been made in 1999 to expedite the pace of tribal welfare-related work.

Development Programme: Various measures of government like the effective implementation of the Aspirational Districts Programme, provisions for scholarships, a five-fold increase in the number of Eklavya Schools has been introduced for uplifting the tribal communities. The New Education Policy has also emphasised local language as the medium of instruction, which will undoubtedly benefit the tribal youth.

Recognizing shining stars: The government has felicitated many shining stars of the tribal community, such as Tulasi Gowda (Karnataka), Rahibai Soma Popere ( Maharashtra), Lakshmikutty (Kerala), Dutee Chand, Mary Kom and others.

Also read: PM launches multiple key initiatives for the welfare of Janjatiya community at Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas Mahasammelan
What is the way forward?

There is a need to highlight the stories of tribal heroes and heroines from the freedom struggle and introduce them to the new generation so that their sacrifices in the Indian freedom struggle get noticed.

GS Paper 2

The need for palliative care in India has never been greater

Source: This post is based on the article “The need for palliative care in India has never been greater” published in the Indian Express on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services  relating to Health

Relevance: Understanding the need for palliative care.

News: With the rise in non-communicable diseases, the requirement of palliative care is a must.

What is palliative care?

WHO defined palliative care as “the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.”

What are the problems associated with palliative care?

1) Lack of trained staff and healthcare professionals. 2) Restricted access to opioids for pain control. 3) Refusal to accept that there comes a time when one needs to work with the process of dying rather than against it.

Why does the need for palliative care arise?

Non-communicable diseases like cancer are rising these days. Presently, in India, 30 lakh people are suffering from cancer.  Of these, 75-80% are in the advanced stage and half of them die within a year. Yet, no more than 2% receive palliative care because of the paucity of service. With the corona pandemic, this count will further increase.

What should be done to improve the conditions of palliative care?

Trained professionals: Palliative care requires end-of-life conversations. So, there is a need for training professionals to work in a collaborative manner. People must also make a living will to designate a surrogate who can take decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.

Renaming: Rename palliative care and call it symptomatic care to make it more acceptable.

Treatment by specialists: There is a tendency to cut off relations once treatments fail. The treating specialist should continue to involve family members whose advice and support are needed by the patient.

Rehabilitation of family members: Apart from the patient, the survival and safety of members left behind is also a concern that should be addressed, especially in the case of India where it is missed.

Wanted: An Indian Charlesworth

Source: This post is based on the article “The need for palliative care in India has never been greater” published in The Hindu on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Role of civil services in a democracy.

Relevance: Understanding the need for transparency behind the selection of Indian candidates in international forums.

News: Recently, India nominated Bimal Patel, professor of international law to the UN International Law Commission. Before him, the only instance of an Indian academic elected to the ILC was that of Radhabinod Pal in 1958, an iconic judge.

Why the nomination is noteworthy?

His appointment is notable as earlier India routinely nominated retired officials from the Legal and Treaties Division (L&T) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), ignoring the talent that existed in international law in academia. According to Syed Akbaruddin, India’s former permanent representative to the UN, the L&T Division treated the ILC membership “as its preserve”.

The Indian habit of nominating retired government officials and bureaucrats to international forums is not restricted to ILC only, but also to other international forums like World Trade Organization, International Court of Justice etc.

What are the practices adopted by other countries?

Other liberal democracies of the world do not nominate only retired officials, but they also nominate the leading academicians of international law. For e.g. Australian nominee, Hilary Charlesworth, recently elected to the ICJ, is a professor of international law and is globally known for her path-breaking work on feminist approaches to international law.

What are the drawbacks of the Indian process of nomination?

Lack of transparency: It gives rise to speculations of favouritism and nepotism.

What is the way forward?

Setting up an independent search-cum-selection committee: The committee should invite applications from qualified candidates, screen them based on their expertise and professional reputation in international law, and then make recommendations publicly.

Nominate the brightest talent: Ministry of External Affairs should make sure that the nominated candidate should have expertise in international law.

Elephant vs Dragon

Source: This post is based on the article “Elephant vs Dragon” published in Times of India on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 –International relations and policies.

Relevance: Understanding Indian democracy versus Chinese authoritarianism.

News: The Chinese model has allowed it to make significant economic gains, as was revealed in the recent report that it had raced past the US in wealth gain over the last two decades. This is in contrast to the Indian democratic model, which faces many challenges.

What are the challenges facing the Indian democratic model?

The government was able to push through some controversial measures like demonetization and GST bill.

But in the matter of the farmer’s bill, though economically sound, it was forced to repeal those laws because of the democratic nature of Indian politics. Here, politics triumphed over the economy.

What are the strengths of the Chinese model?

China, guided by the single pursuit of economically overthrowing the USA, can take tough and strict measures. In China, opposition holds little or no power against the ruling segment.

ASER 2021 has insights on how schools can respond to post-Covid world

Source: This post is based on the article “ASER 2021 has insights on how schools can respond to post-Covid world” published in The Indian Express on 24th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

Relevance: To know how to build back education better.

News: Recently, the 16th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey 2021 has been released.

About the ASER Survey and its key findings

Read here: ASER Survey and issues in school education – Explained, pointwise

How education can be “build back better” in the post-pandemic world?

Children in today’s Class 1 and Class 2 have never been to school. They have to be helped to get ready for schooling and learning.

Children above Class 3 will need help to settle in and reconnect with school education.

Retain children in government schools: Government schools have to demonstrate new ways to welcome children. Further, they need to build trust and faith through interaction between parents and teachers. So that, the shift to government schools can be long-lasting.

A shift in teaching-learning approach: The use of grade-level curriculum may not be useful immediately after the pandemic. Instead, meeting children at the level where they are and using the “teaching at the right level” approach is the need of the hour.

Investing time and effort now in rebuilding and strengthening children’s ability to read with understanding, improving their problem-solving skills, and enabling them to help each other in the classroom may provide a big boost. It will bring the education system to where it was in pre-Covid times and will help to realize the goals of the National Education Policy.

In conclusion, new methods of engaging with children and parents should emerge along with a proper Ground-level action plan that has appropriate teaching-learning goals and activities.

Lessons from past sanitation policies for future efforts

Source: This post is based on the article “Lessons from past sanitation policies for future efforts” published in Livemint on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: To understand various sanitation programmes, their challenges and suggestions.

News: Despite decades of national sanitation policies, data from the fifth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) indicates that India is far from achieving it.

Why does SDG Goal 6 (on water and sanitation) is essential?

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 6 aims to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030. But, its importance extends beyond its objectives. It will help nations achieve other SDG goals. Such as SDG 1 (poverty eradication), SDG 2 (improving nutrition), SDG 3 (promotion of well-being), and SDG 5 (gender equality), among others.

About the Evolution of India’s sanitation policies

Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP; 1986-1999): It offered financial assistance to below-poverty-line (BPL) homes to encourage the construction of ‘individual household latrines’ (IHHLs).

Challenges: Slow construction and lack of demand-led ‘behaviour change communication’ (BCC).

Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC; 1999-2011): It focused on driving up demand for toilet adoption. Around 15% of its budget was dedicated to educational activities, along with continued financial assistance to BPL households.

To inculcate behaviour change, the campaign focussed on achieving Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS).

Note: Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is developed in Bangladesh. It is a multistep participatory process that acknowledges that the mere provision of toilets does not guarantee its usage. It uses audiovisual aids to arouse a sense of discomfort and disgust with Open Defecation (OD) and motivates local communities to end the practice collectively.

Challenges of TSC: 1. Officials running TSC lacked the training needed for educational activities, 2. Rather than demand-led, it is infrastructure-focused.

So, less than a 10% increase in toilet coverage was achieved under TSC according to the Census data (from 22% in 2001 to 31% in 2011).

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), 2012: The Abhiyan only ran for 18 months.

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) on 2 October 2014: Under it, the government aims to achieve an OD-free India within five years. The SBM was the first to include urban (along with rural) sanitation guidelines.

Under the SBM, India achieved the construction of around 100 million toilets and was declared an OD-free nation on 2 October 2019. However, many independent studies, along with NFHS-5 data, have raised questions over this claim.

Why do India’s sanitation policies not yield desired results?

1. Policies have had a top-down approach with a focus on building toilets, this led to a higher number of toilets installed, but not used, 2. Ignored behaviour change communication’ (BCC).

What should India do?

Proper community mobilization: India has to learn from Bangladesh. Using CLTS, Bangladesh reduced OD from 42% in 2003 to 1% in 2016. India should follow Bangladesh’s steps such as 1. Recognize sanitation attitudes as crucial, 2. Form collaborations with state and local governments along with national and international NGOs, 3. Recognise the participation and leadership role of women in achieving ODF status, such as decisions on the location and type of toilets planned, 4. Explain the merits of using toilets and having clean surroundings.

Remould social norms: Social norms should be remoulded in such a manner that toilets begin to be associated with the household’s dignity and social status.

Keep toilets structurally intact and suitably clean: This will ensure that there is no reversal to OD after some time.

Linking SDG 6 goal with the sanitation programmes at all levels: This will allow a unified approach towards that end.

GS Paper 3

Use of facial recognition technology by police is dangerous

Source: This post is based on the article “Use of facial recognition technology by police is dangerous” published in The Indian Express on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS-3 – Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Relevance: To understand the dilemma of security and privacy.

News: Hyderabad city police is deploying lakhs of cameras connected in a real-time network managed by Hyderabad’s Command and Control Centre and can be used for facial recognition technology.

In Hyderabad, an Integrated Police Command Control Centre has been set up, with a cost of Rs 800 crore. The center will allow the police to access real-time surveillance footage from the network of cameras that monitor the city.

Numerous reports have emerged from Hyderabad about illegal search operations and police taking photographs of people on the road without any reason.

What is Facial Recognition Technology(FRT)?

Facial recognition technology identifies the distinctive features of a person’s face, and it creates a biometric map using these features. Then an algorithm matches these features with possible individuals. The system searches across databases of millions of images and information gathered without knowledge or consent.

What are the issues with FRT?

Surveillance practices like data analytics, social media analysis capabilities and facial recognition are alleged to be an attempt to control citizens’ lives through technology.

International experience – The EU is in the process of banning this technology. Belgium, Luxembourg and multiple cities in the US have already banned this technology.

Specific concerns linked to India:

-Supreme Court in its judgment has already recognized the Right to Privacy as the fundamental right. However, there is yet no privacy law in India to regulate data collection and to act as an oversight mechanism. The proposed ‘Personal Data Protection Bill 2019’ is still stuck in Parliament.

– Without a law on privacy, public spaces will turn into sites of technological experimentation, where human rights are sidelined for profit and control.

-In the name of the protection of women and children, public money is being spent on these technologies. However, there is yet no evidence of their effectiveness, further wasting public funds.

-This Hyderabad model will motivate other state police departments and intelligence agencies to adopt similar measures throughout the country.

EVs for last-mile delivery could boost India’s e-commerce sector

Source: This post is based on the article “EVs for last-mile delivery could boost India’s e-commerce sector” published in Live mint on 24 November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 –Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Relevance: To understand the new demand for EV’s for environment-friendly last-mile delivery.

News: Recently, NITI Aayog and around 30 companies, including many e-commerce and logistics firms, launched their Shoonya campaign‘ that calls for accelerated electrification of last-mile delivery.

Why big private companies are adopting electric vehicles?

A rapid digital adoption across India during the covid pandemic has pressured companies to expand their last-mile logistics.

A McKinsey analysis stated that as more netizens order online, India requires between 1 million and 1.5 million two-wheelers for delivery, by 2025.

Companies seem to be realizing that electrifying the delivery vehicles could help them cut fuel and maintenance costs, besides reducing harmful emissions. 100% electrification of their two-wheeler fleets by 2025 could save close to $1 billion as well as a 1.5-million-tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions each year.

What are the challenges?

The idea is yet to take off on a larger scale owing to structural issues, including financing limitations, lack of awareness, and the limited availability of EV models right now.

Insurers lack sufficient data to accurately price risk while providing cover for these vehicles.

What efforts are done to tackle the last-mile delivery issue?

Efforts by private players:

-The rise of mobility platforms gives companies an option to lease vehicles instead of purchasing them.

-Newer models of EVs are coming up with features such as higher top speeds, longer ranges, and better tech packages that are ideal for last-mile delivery.

Efforts by Union Government:

-FAME-II incentives have been increased from ₹10,000 per kWh to ₹15,000 per kWh, to spur demand and supply in this space.

Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for the automotive sector, where around ₹26,000 crores have been earmarked for 5 years. The initiative could incentivize EV production in the country.

Sustainable agriculture

Source: This post is based on the article “Sustainable agriculture” published in Business Standard on 23 November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 –Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country.

Relevance: To understand the need and ways of sustainable agricultural practices.

News: During the recent climate summit in Glasgow, India did not ratify “Action Agenda on Sustainable Agriculture”.

India stated that it already has a “National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture” as part of its broad “National Action Plan on Climate Change”. However, these initiatives have failed to improve the condition of Indian agriculture.

What are the issues in Indian agricultural practices?

The country’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission from the farm sector is increasing constantly.

-India overtook China in 2011 to become the world’s top polluter in terms of agricultural emissions.

-Emission from the two main methane-emitting activities — paddy cultivation and livestock rearing — is also increasing continuously.

Environment-friendly practices, like organic farming or zero-budget cultivation, are not able to match the massive and rapidly growing demand for farm products.

What is the solution?

India needs “sustainable agriculture” whereby technologies and agronomic practices are efficient, least injurious to the environment, and yet profitable for farmers.

What are the means to execute such a sustainable practice?

Mixing the modern productivity-boosting technologies, including environment-resilient crop varieties and animal breeds, with traditional knowledge and norms, that promote living in harmony with nature.

Widely practiced mono-cropping and unchanged cropping cycles should be replaced with diversified farming.  It should include a judicious mix of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, and agroforestry.

Land-restoring and fertility-enhancing crops like legumes and quick-growing vegetation should be included in the cropping sequence. It will improve soil’s physical, chemical, and biological health.

Physical churning of soil needs to be avoided or minimized. Novel concepts like conservative agriculture involving zero or minimum tillage and direct seeding of crops can help to do so.

Mixing manures-Greater use of farmyard manure in combination with chemical fertilizers.

-Placement of fertilizers at the right depth near the plant roots and rational use of pesticides can help in promoting sustainable farming.

Integrated disease and pest management, involving the planting of disease-resistant crop varieties and deployment of natural predators of pests.

Promotion of rainwater harvesting and economical use of water through systems like drip and sprinkler irrigation.

Practices like stubble burning need to be forbidden.

What India should strive for in trade deals

Source: This post is based on the article “What India should strive for in trade deals” published in Business Standard on 23 Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

Relevance: To get an inside view on the India’s trade negotiations.

News: India has decided to enter into trade agreements with key partners like the UK, UAE and Australia and announced an ambitious plan for an early harvest deal by March 2022.

These trade agreements coincides with India coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic-related slowdown and wants to become “Atmanirbhar” and play “a bigger role in the global value chain”.

What are the challenges?

India’s previous negotiations on trade agreements has not provided Indian exporters a level playing field.

-For example, in the case of early harvest with Thailand, Thailand has benefitted more compared to India.

India offered little and received a lower level of commitment, compared to its competitors in these markets.

The possibilities of attracting more FDI, gaining greater market access, and partnership have always taken a back seat in our industry consultations.

Policy uncertainty has been a key issue in many sectors in the case of India. Policies designed to meet certain objectives, like reducing the trade imbalance with China, ended up adversely affecting countries other than China.

India has one of the highest tariffs in the world. Since the trade agreements lead to tariff liberalisation, Indian industry always worries about tariff liberalisation intensifying competition in the domestic market.

India’s defensive policies like the ban on some GI products are considered by some countries as a violation of India’s GI obligation under TRIPS.

What should India do in the new trade agreements?

The consultations have to look beyond tariffs. The focus should be on attracting investment and the development of value chains.

Allowing greater market access can help other countries to source more from India, as seen in the case of ASEAN countries, and there is a good chance that our exports will increase.

Win-Win deal-Gains can be cross-sectoral, focus should be on areas of export competence and interest. For example, access to cross markets for Indian IT companies and UK liquor companies.

As India enters into trade negotiations, there is a need for policy consistency and transparency.

It is important to make India a bigger player in the global value chain, import substitution may not lead to greater global integration.

There is a need for alignment between domestic policy objectives and that of trade agreements to further India’s position in trade negotiations.

India may look at best practices of countries like Vietnam, which has successfully signed trade agreements, as it designs its domestic policies and enters into trade agreement negotiations.

Over-valued unicorns in a distressed economy

Source: This post is based on the article “Over-valued unicorns in a distressed economy” published in The Hindu on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – issues related to Startup sector

Relevance: Unicorns in India and their future growth

News: India’s largest IPO (Paytm) made a disastrous stock market debut and ended its first trading day at a discount of 27% to the issue price. Questions are, hence, being raised on the valuation of the firm and the IPO.

Paytm, along with an educational technology start-up, are being viewed as one of the ‘shining beacons’ among a growing list of unicorns in India.

But the not so enthusiastic response towards the giant IPO casts doubts about the valuations of unicorns in India.

What are the reasons for the remarkable growth of Unicorns in India?

In recent years, the growth of unicorns in India is remarkable, covering diverse sectors. Digital payment in FinTech sector and educational sector has achieved unprecedented growth. The reasons are:

Market opportunity due to a growing smartphone user base: The country has around 640 million Internet users, of which 550 million are smartphone users. Rising Internet penetration and growth of digital payments are also crucial factors.

Impact of the Pandemic: it has been a blessing in disguise for EdTech firms. Many are forced to shift to e-education.

The expectation that startups have the ability to sustain an initial level of hyper growth: because start-ups with limited resources aim at technology disruption.

Why Paytm’s IPO didn’t go well?

Paytm that came out with the giant IPO was considered by many as a technology disruptor and game changer which created hype and overvaluation. However, it failed to sustain the hype because of the following reasons

Core business model is not unique: Paytm doesn’t do anything different from its competitors’. For example, it is losing market share as more and more people are opting for UPI-based payments to directly transfer money from their bank accounts, instead of wallets.

Funding losses: The structure of the group has an inherent weakness. There are 39 subsidiaries and over half of these put together contribute to a mere 5% of its revenues.

What is wrong with India’s overhyped unicorns?

Too many acquisitions: Many firms are doing multiple acquisitions. For eg: The Edtech startup (whose name is not mentioned in the article) acquired nine other firms in one year. Too many acquisitions with big ambitions to grow inorganically puts pressure on the balance sheet in the years to come, as some new acquisitions are likely to fail.

Overestimation of demand projections: Data by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) points that there are just about 23 million households which earn more than ₹5 lakh per year i.e., less than ₹42,000 a month, which is about 7% of all Indian families. If firms want to go beyond this 7% of households, they have to offer bigger discounts, burning more cash in the process.

Saturation point reached: The current state of Indian economy and employment situation are in a misery. Due to this, tech companies are already reaching the saturation point of their real customer-base i.e. consumers who can afford to consume without discounts.

Hence, India is witnessing new unicorns emerging every month, which are products of inflated valuations to tap more funds to burn more cash. These valuations are solely on the basis of future earnings, with virtually no profits to show in the present.

The road to a Himalayan blunder

Source: This post is based on the article “The road to a Himalayan blunder” published in The Hindu on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Disaster management

Relevance:  Vulnerability of Himalayan states, Chardam project, manmade disaster

News: The Char Dham road expansion project, to be executed by Min of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), was inaugurated in 2016.

In 2018, it was challenged by an NGO for its potential impact on the Himalayan ecology.

The Supreme Court (SC), in 2020, after consultation with the high-powered committee (HPC) and on the basis of MoRTH guidelines, said that the width of the roads cannot exceed 5.5 m.

Must Read: Green and secure: Char Dham Highway project must see government and environmentalists work together

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) filed an appeal for a double-lane road with an even higher road width to meet the requirement of the army.

Subsequently, Min of Road Transport and highways (MoRTH) amended its 2018 circular and raised the 5.5m width limit to 10m.

The case is in SC.

If the government does not desist from widening the roads under this project, it will be a Himalayan blunder.

What are the stances taken by the govt and the petitioners in this case?

Govt argues that wide roads are necessary for the sake of national security in the Garhwal region.

The petitioners, residents of the valleys in the Garhwal region, stress on the need for a regulated and narrower intermediate road width with a walking footpath.

What is the purpose of Char dham project?

Char Dham road project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to the four major shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

It was envisioned that providing infrastructural support will increase pilgrimage tourism from the Indian plains and provide local economic dividends.

However, in the process to boost economy, the government has ignored the ill effects of rampant construction on the fragile Himalayan range.

Why broader roads are not safe in Uttarakhand Himalayas?

Terrain of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand is different from the terrain in Ladakh: Valleys in Uttarakhand are narrow and close-ended with steep slopes of 60-70 degrees. On the other hand, the valleys in Ladakh have a slope elevation of 30 degrees.

Uttarakhand Himalayas is prone to frequent disasters. For instance, recent floods in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda rivers claimed over 200 lives.

Will increase man-made disasters: It will significantly reinforce mass wasting processes and erosion rates given the steepness of the slopes, earthquake activity and erosivity of increased monsoonal precipitation. For instance, during the monsoons, owing to the massive hill-cutting for the Char Dham road project, several landslides have occurred in the region.

Hence, the unique Himalayan landscape with steep slopes and sharp gradients is not amenable to human engineering.

What is the way forward?

– Disaster-resilient, safe and stable infrastructure is the only solution for commuting by road in the hills.

– Minimum human-induced disturbances: Any human-induced change beyond the Himalayas’ carrying capacity will have an impact on stream run-offs and erosional or depositional processes. Considering such vulnerabilities, we need to keep the scale of human-induced disturbances to the minimum level possible.

Dear ‘The Economist’, climate change is a global predicament

Source: This post is based on the article “Dear ‘The Economist’, climate change is a global predicament” published in Live mint on 24th November 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Issues related to the energy sector

Relevance: Greenhouse gas emissions, Climate change, Energy transition

News: The Economist recently published a series of reports blaming countries like China and India for much of the carbon-emissions problem.

Such international media focus on just Indian and Chinese carbon emissions is unfair and doesn’t help the larger cause of climate change.

There is no denying that, in 2020, in absolute terms, China and India emitted more carbon dioxide than the US and Europe.

However, labelling carbon emissions as a chiefly India-China problem is injustice to the cause and doesn’t help solve it.

Nor does it help alleviate the structural issues ailing the transition of developing economies like India towards cleaner sources of energy.

Why it is unfair to blame that carbon emissions are chiefly an India-China problem?

Firstly, per capita carbon dioxide emissions of developed countries are still higher than India and China per capita emissions. For instance, in 2020, the per capita carbon dioxide emission of the US was 1.9 times that of China and eight times that of India.

Secondly, such a simplistic picture hides the complete truth. For instance, Although China was responsible for more carbon emissions than US and EU put together, in 2020, but it was also the world leader in solar and wind power, EV cars, and high-speed rail transport.

Thirdly, In the Indian case, the production of solar power has been rising, the government has set ambitious targets on electric vehicles to reduce India’s dependence on petrol and diesel, and reduce emissions in the process.

However, there are certain structure challenges for India while transiting towards a clean energy economy.

What are the structural challenges for India that hampers India’s transition towards clean energy?

Firstly, Coal-based power continues to be the dominant source of energy. In 2010-11, it formed 54% of the power produced. In this context, growth of electric vehicles that end up using electric energy derived from coal will have no impact on the net carbon emissions.

Secondly, if solar-power capacity expands fast, then many coal-based power plants will end up in further financial trouble than they already are, and this will create problems for banks which have lent them money.

Thirdly, As per the British economist Lord Nicholas Stern ‘climate change results from history’s greatest market failure—the failure to attach a price to the costs of carbon dioxide emissions’

In this backdrop, it is widely believed that taxing fossil fuels at high rate will bring down the consumption of fossil fuels. In India, the government already taxes petrol and diesel at a very high rate. So, despite attaching costs, the market failure argument doesn’t hold good for India.

Fourthly, the impact on fiscal resources: If electric vehicles become popular, tax collections from petrol and diesel are likely to come down.

New cryptocurrency bill seeks to ban private players

Source: This post is based on the following articles:

New cryptocurrency bill seeks to ban private players‘ published in The Hindu on 23rd Nov 2021.

Bill to ban private cryptos this session‘ published in Business Standard on 23rd Nov 2021.

Crypto, not currency – Cryptocurrency: Ideal law will ban use as legal tender, allow it to be an asset‘ published in TOI on 23rd Nov 2021.

Govt plans Bills to bar pvt cryptocurrency with a few ‘exceptions’, repeal farm laws‘ published in The Indian Express on 24th Nov 2021.

Govt to move bill to ban all ‘private cryptocurrencies’ published in Livemint on 24th Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Relevance: Regulation of Cryptocurrency

News: The government has listed the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 for the upcoming winter session of Parliament, starting November 29.

The bill is yet to be officially approved by the Cabinet.

This is among the 26 pieces of legislation, including the repeal of three farm laws, listed for the session.

About Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021

As per the government notification on Lok Sabha website – The bill seeks to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India, however, it allows for certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses.

Currently, there is no regulation or any ban on the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.

Through the cryptocurrency legislation, a facilitative framework will be created for an official Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

Various exchanges together have 15 million KYC-approved users, with an investment value of $6 billion.

Further details of the bill are not out yet.

What are private cryptocurrencies?

Whatever cryptocurrency is not issued by the government, can be considered private, though there is no clear definition of private cryptocurrency.

According to some definitions,

– Bitcoin, Ethereum and many other crypto tokens are based on public blockchain networks, which mean transactions made using the networks are traceable while still providing a degree of anonymity to users.

– On the other hand, private cryptocurrencies could refer to Monero, Dash and others, which though built on public blockchains, hide the transaction information to offer privacy to users.

What is the way forward?

The need of the hour is to balance innovation and regulation.

As per D. Subbarao (former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India),

Internationally, regulatory responses to cryptos have fallen into three broad categories:

– Passive tolerance: It involves prohibiting regulated institutions from dealing in cryptos without explicitly clarifying their legal status. RBI tried this option but the Supreme Court struck it down.

– Total ban: A second approach is a total ban like in China. But that model entails the risk of pushing the trade into invisible and illegal channels, possibly inflicting even greater damage.

– Regulation: A third approach is to follow countries such as the UK, Singapore and Japan that have allowed space for cryptos to operate under a regulatory radar but without recognising them as legal tender. India will be well advised to follow this middle path.

Hence, the ideal way forward will be to ban Cryptocurrency use as legal tender while allowing it to be an asset.

Why Cities Must Lead The Climate Battle

Source: This post is based on the article “Why Cities Must Lead The Climate Battle” published in TOI on 23rd Nov 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Relevance: Understanding the importance of the role of the cities in fighting the climate change.

News: Glasgow Climate Pact makes no explicit mention of the critical role of urban areas in finding solutions to the climate problem. Once again, the challenges of cities have taken a backseat in global negotiations on climate change.

Why towns and cities will play a critical role in the fight against climate change?

More people now live in towns and cities than in rural areas.

– Towns and cities are responsible for producing over three-quarters of the world’s carbon emissions that cause the climate to change.

– Additionally, urban areas are disproportionately located along coasts and rivers, highly exposed to climate-induced disasters such as floods and sea level rise.

– With over one in three urban residents living in slums and one in four earning less than $2 a day, cities also contain vast numbers of people who lack the capacity to withstand the impacts of a changing climate.

What are some potential negative implications of climate change on the urban population?

Climate disasters faced by Indian cities: From past few years, Indian cities have faced the brunt of the climate change.

– Floods in Chennai (this month and in 2015)

– Heatwaves (such as the one in Ahmedabad in 2010)

– Water scarcity (such as in Maharashtra in 2016 when the water had to be shipped in on trains

Deteriorating health of urban residents due to changing disease patterns

An increase in violence due to extreme heat

As a result of all of the above, the overall reduced wellbeing of city dwellers and an impact on the economic productivity of urban areas that currently account for over 80% of the world’s GDP.

What is the way forward?

Consultations with city residents: Comprehensive climate action plans need to be produced through genuine consultation with a wide cross-section of urban residents. For instance,

– Odisha: Innovative public-private partnerships between municipal bodies in Odisha and research institutions. This has led to an improved understanding of practical steps that can be taken to reduce emissions and build resilience in cities.

Role of state govt: The role of state governments is critical. They must ensure that all departments work together to make urban climate action a reality. A good example of this is Maharashtra’s recent commitment to ensure that 43 cities in the state systematically reduce emissions.

Addressing problems of the urban poor: Our cities are fueled by those living in slums and working in the informal economy. Unfortunately, they are the ones disproportionately affected by a changing climate. Therefore, any move to help cities deal with climate change must have their interests at its core.

Climate finance: A key component of equipping cities to deal with climate change is the provision of finance. Time and time again, including this year’s COP has proved that international climate finance is not a certainty. Hence, our state governments must enable cities to generate their own streams of finance for tackling climate change. This can be done via:

– issuing municipal green bonds: These have been used by cities such as Cape Town to raise large amounts of money to deal with crippling water scarcity. Cities such as Pune have issued bonds in the past, but there is a lack of understanding and most cities also lack the basic financial systems for issuing these. The international community must share lessons in such innovative climate finance approaches.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

India, U.S. commit to linking economies across sectors

Source: This post is based on the following articles 

India, U.S. commit to linking economies across sectors published in The Hindu on 23rd November 2021.

India, US aim for specific Trade Policy Forum outcome by mid 2022” published in Business Standard on 23rd Nov.2021.

India and United States Joint Statement on the Trade Policy Forum published in PIB on 23rd Nov, 2021.

What is the news?

India and the United States held the twelfth Ministerial-level meeting of the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF) in New Delhi.

What is the India-United States Trade Policy Forum (TPF)?

India-United States TPF is a premier forum to resolve trade and investment issues between the two countries.

Chaired by: The forum is co-chaired by the Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry and U.S. Trade Representative.

Focus Groups: The forum has five focus groups – agriculture, investment, innovation and creativity (intellectual property rights), services, and tariff and non-tariff barriers

What are the key highlights of the meeting?

Bilateral Trade: The bilateral trade between India and the US stood at $80.5 billion in 2020-21. India has received $13.8 billion foreign direct investment from the US during 2020-21.

Mutual Market Access: The Forum has decided to sign an agreement to facilitate U.S. market access for mangoes, grapes, and pomegranates, pomegranate arils from India, and reciprocate with similar access in the Indian market to cherries, pork/pork products from the United States.

Restoration of GSP:  India has sought restoration of the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) benefits by the U.S.

Totalisation Agreement: The countries have decided to negotiate a Social Security Totalisation Agreement. The totalisation agreement would allow workers from both countries to move their retirement savings. A lack of such an agreement particularly affects Indian IT workers in the USA, who lose billions of dollars in statutory U.S. social security contributions that they cannot repatriate home.

Ethanol Supply: US has expressed an interest in supplying ethanol to India for its goal of 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2025.

Defence Acquisition Council headed by Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh approves proposal of value Rs. 2,236 Cr.

Source: This post is based on the articleDefence Acquisition Council headed by Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh approves proposal of value Rs. 2,236 Cr.published in PIB on 23rd Nov 2021.

What is the news?

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved the procurement proposal of the Air Force for GSAT-7C Satellite and Ground Hubs for real-time connectivity of Software Defined Radios (SDRs). 

About GSAT-7 Satellites

GSAT-7 also known as Rukmini is an advanced communication satellite built by ISRO. It was launched in 2013 for the Indian Navy to monitor the Indian Ocean Region and provide real-time data to all the Indian submarines, warships and aircraft.

GSAT-7A is an advanced military communications satellite launched by ISRO in 2018. The satellite is currently being used by Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army. The satellite allows IAF to interlink ground-based radars, airborne early warning and control aircraft for surveillance, gather intelligence by detecting aircraft.

GSAT-7C will be launched in the next 2 to 3 years by ISRO. It will be the 2nd dedicated satellite for the Indian Air Force(IAF).

What are Software Defined Radios (SDRs)?

Software Defined Radio (SDR) provides enhanced data transmission capability, enhanced voice clarity and data transmission accuracy in spectrally noisy environments.

What is the significance of induction of GSAT-7C Satellite and SDRs?

The induction of GSAT-7C Satellite and Software Defined Radios (SDRs) will enhance the ability of Armed Forces to communicate beyond Line of Sight (LoS) among one another in all circumstances in a secure mode.

Mysuru Declaration on Service Delivery by Panchayats signed

Source: This post is based on the article Mysuru Declaration on Service Delivery by Panchayats signed published in PIB on 23rd Nov 2021.

What is the news?

The Ministry of Panchayat Raj in association with National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Hyderabad and Abdul Nazir State Institute of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Mysuru had organised a National Consultative Workshop on Citizen Charter and Delivery of Services by Panchayats. 

During the workshop, p​​articipants from 16 States signed the Mysuru Declaration.

What is the Mysuru Declaration?

Mysuru declaration is aimed at recognising Citizen Centric Services as the “Heart of Governance”.

The declaration also aims to promote inclusive and accountable Local Self Governments in delivery of services in consonance with the priorities and the aspirations of our citizens.

As part of the declaration, participating states have committed to:

  • Increase the availability of Citizen Services at the grassroots levels in a timely and efficient manner, commencing with offering of the following basic, statutory and/ or essential services at the Gram Panchayat level from 1st April 2022
  • Implement the highest standards of professional integrity and accountability towards timely delivery of Public Services

Change in course of Himalayan glacier can help to understand the glacial-tectonic interaction

Source: This post is based on the article Change in course of Himalayan glacier can help to understand the glacial-tectonic interaction published in PIB on 23rd November 2021.

What is the News?

Indian scientists studying an unnamed glacier have reported that the glacier had abruptly changed its main course. This is for the first time that such a change in course has been reported in a Himalayan glacier.

About the study
Source: PIB

Scientists were observing a 5 km long unnamed glacier, which covered around 4 sq km area in Kuthi Yankti valley (Kuthi Yankti river is a tributary of Kali river).

This glacier abruptly changed its main course and ultimately merged with the adjacent glacier named Sumzurkchanki.

Scientists have attributed this change to climate change and tectonic movements.

Example: The recent disaster in Rishi Ganga is an example where the rock mass on which the glacier was sitting gradually became fragile due to weathering, percolation of meltwater in joints, crevasses, freezing and thawing, snowfall, overloading, and gradually operating tectonic forces forcing rocks to mechanical disintegration. With due course of time, the glacier detached from the source rock. 

Hence, this clearly suggests that the Himalaya is an active mountain range and highly fragile, where tectonics and climate play a critical role.

What is the significance of this study?

Firstly, it clearly indicates that climate is not the only factor that triggers disasters in the Himalayas, which is an active mountain range, but tectonics also play an important role in glacial catchments.

Secondly, it also opens the doors for a new approach in glacier studies particularly focused on the course change and evolution of new landforms formed by glacial-tectonic interplay.

This science flagship started India’s industrial revolution

Source: This post is based on the articleThis science flagship started India’s industrial revolutionpublished in TOI on 23rd November 2021.

What is the news?

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) gave rise to many industries, some of which are still around. Its scientists were instrumental in setting up and leading many of India’s independent PSUs.

It also counts among the world’s leading institutions of scientific research.

About Indian Institute of Science (IISc)

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is a public, deemed, research university for higher education and research in science, engineering, design, and management. 

It was established in 1909 by a visionary partnership between the industrialist Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the Mysore royal family and the Government of India.

The institute was granted the deemed to be university status in 1958 and the Institute of Eminence status in 2018.

Location of the Institute: Bengaluru,Karnataka.

What is the historical significance of IISc?

During World War II, IISc contributed towards the war effort by training personnel, manufacturing military and industrial goods, and collaborating with Hindustan Aircraft Limited to repair and maintain British and American warplanes. 

Who are the famous Personalities of IISc?

IISc counts among its former students and faculty several eminent scientists such as Homi J Bhabha, the founder of India’s nuclear program, Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of India’s space programme, solid state and materials scientist CNR Rao among others.

Managing greywater: A Haryana village shows the way

Source: This post is based on the articleManaging greywater: A Haryana village shows the waypublished in Down To Earth on 23rd Nov 2021.

What is the news?

Pond-based greywater treatment systems in Kurak Jagir village in Karnal district, Haryana has shown the way on how to treat Greywater.

What is Greywater?

Greywater refers to wastewater from non-toilet systems, that is, wastewater from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, baths, showers among others.

More than 70% of freshwater across rural households in India gets converted to greywater. Due to this, greywater is often let into stormwater drains, which is discharged into the surroundings. This poses environmental and public health risks. 

How is Kurak Village in Haryana treating Greywater?

Gram Panchayat (GP) in Kurak Village has implemented a pond-based wastewater treatment system in 2017.

This Pond-based system treats Greywater in a combination of three different biological processes using zero energy: Anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic.

Under this system, greywater firstly flows through two anaerobic ponds, two facultative ponds and two maturation ponds. The water monitored at the final outlet shows that the wastewater is treated and can be used for irrigation and pisciculture. The last maturation pond in this village is used for pisciculture.

Concern: This pond based treatment system has not been working at places where the GPs are uninterested.

There is a need to build a network of officials to help plan and construct such pond systems, in addition to generating awareness about the system among rural communities.

Impact of this Pond based wastewater treatment system

Within a year of setting up this system in 2017, Haryana passed The Haryana Pond and Wastewater Management Authority Act, 2018. Similar pond-based wastewater treatment systems were set up across the state.

The Act also enabled the state government to create an official authority to handle the management and sustenance of pond systems.

NITI Aayog under the Indo-German Cooperation releases inaugural SDG Urban Index and Dashboard 2021–22

Source: This post is based on the following articles 

  • NITI Aayog under the Indo-German Cooperation releases inaugural SDG Urban Index and Dashboard 2021–22 published in PIB on 23rd November 2021.
  • Shimla, Coimbatore, Chandigarh top Niti Aayog’s first SDG Urban India Indexpublished in Business Standard on 23rd Nov.2021.
What is the News?

Niti Aayog has released the first Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Urban India Index.

About SDG Urban India index

Developed by: Niti Aayog in collaboration with GIZ and BMZ under the umbrella of Indo-German Development Cooperation.

Purpose: It is an SDG progress monitoring tool at the Urban Local Bodies(ULB) level.

Methodology: For each SDG, the urban areas are ranked on a scale of 0-100. A score of 100 implies that the urban area has achieved the targets set for 2030; a score of 0 implies that it is the farthest from achieving the targets among the selected urban areas.

Categories: The areas with scores between 0 and 49 have been ranked as aspirants, those with 50-64 are termed as performers, 65-99 are called front-runners and the ones with perfect scores are called achievers. 

Significance: The index and dashboard will further strengthen SDG localization and institute robust SDG monitoring at the city level. 

What are the key rankings?

Not a single urban area has achieved a perfect score.

Top 10 Urban Areas: Shimla has topped the index. This was followed by Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Panaji, Pune, Tiruchirappalli, Ahmedabad and Nagpur. These ten urban areas have scored between 75.5 and 69.79 of 100 and are ranked as front-runners.

Bottom 10 urban areas: Dhanbad, Meerut, Itanagar, Guwahati, Patna, Jodhpur, Kohima, Agra, Kolkata and Faridabad. These areas have scored between 52.43 and 58.57 and are termed as ‘performers’. 

There are none in the ‘aspirant’ category with scores below 49.

India has made no progress on anaemia, childhood wasting: Global Nutrition Report

Source: This post is based on the articleIndia has made no progress on anaemia, childhood wasting: Global Nutrition Reportpublished in Down To Earth on 23rd Nov 2021.

What is the News?

The Global Nutrition Report, 2021 has been released.

What is the Global Nutrition Report 2021?

The Global Nutrition Report was conceived following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013. 

Released by: ​​ It is a multi-stakeholder initiative, consisting of a Stakeholder Group, Independent Expert Group and Report Secretariat.

Purpose: The report is the world’s leading independent assessment of the state of global nutrition. It provides a concise data-focused update on the state of diets and nutrition in the world.

What are the key findings of the report related to India?

Anaemia: ​​Over half of Indian women in the age group 15-49 years are anaemic. There has also been a rise in anaemic Indian women since 2016. In 2016, 52.6% of Indian women were anaemic. But in 2020, 53% were found to be anaemic.

Childhood Wasting: India has made no progress or is worsening on reducing ‘childhood wasting’. Over 17% of Indian children under 5 years of age are affected by wasting. This figure is much higher than the average for Asia, where close to 9% of children are affected. Wasting refers to children whose weight is low-for-their height.

Stunting: India is ‘on course’ to meet the target for stunting. But over 34%  of children under 5 years of age are still affected. This figure is higher than average for Asia, where close to 22% are affected by stunting. Stunting is when a child has a low height for their age.

Global Nutrition Targets: India is ‘off-course’ in meeting 7 of the 13 global nutrition targets. These include sodium intake, raised blood pressure (both men and women), obesity (both men and women) and diabetes (both men and women).

Obesity: Some 6.2% of adult (aged 18 years and over) women and 3.5% of adult men are living with obesity in the country. In fact, no country in the world was ‘on course’ to achieve the target for obesity.

Breastfeeding: India is ‘on course’ to meet the target for ‘exclusive breastfeeding’. Some 58% of infants in the age group 0-5 months are exclusively breastfed in India.

Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: FAO launches action plan 2021–2025

Source: This post is based on the article Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: FAO launches action plan 2021–2025published in Down To Earth on 23rd Nov 2021.

What is the News?

​​The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has launched its Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) 2021–2025.

About Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) 2021–2025

The FAO Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2021-2025 is the continuation of the first FAO Action Plan, which covered the period 2016-2020.

Key Objectives of the plan

The five key objectives of the plan are: 

  • Increasing stakeholder awareness and engagement
  • Strengthening surveillance and research
  • Enabling good practices
  • Promoting responsible use of antimicrobials
  • Strengthening governance and allocating resources sustainably
Key Features of the plan

Firstly, it takes a ‘One Health’ approach and outlines several possible improvements in agricultural practices to better control Antimicrobial Resistance(AMR) from good nutrition for people and animals, vaccination, hygiene, sanitation and genetics among other areas.

Secondly, it calls for more AMR-related research and surveillance in the crop, aquaculture and environmental sectors. This is because antimicrobials discharged by humans and animals, as well as hospitals and slaughterhouses, can enter the environment and accelerate the emergence as well as the spread of resistant strains and genes.

What are antimicrobials?

Antimicrobials – including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.

What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. 

As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

DAC approves AK-203 deal with Russia

Source: This post is based on the article “DAC approves AK-203 deal with Russiapublished in The Hindu on 23rd Nov 2021.

What is the News?

Ahead of the Russian President visit to India, Defence Acquisition Council(DAC) has approved the deal for the manufacture of AK-203 assault rifles in India. Another deal likely to make progress is for Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) systems. However, the Ka-226T utility helicopter deal is unlikely to be cleared.

What is AK-203?

AK-203 is an assault rifle designed by Russia. It is considered to be the latest and most advanced version of the AK-47 rifle. They will be replacing the Indian Small Arms System(INSAS) rifles.

Features: The AK-203 rifle is reliable, durable and easy to maintain. It also has better ergonomics, accuracy and density of fire. They are also considered lighter, shorter and deadlier than the INSAS rifle.

Production of AK-203 for India: The production of the AK-203 will be undertaken in India by the Indo-Russia Rifles Pvt Ltd (IRRPL), which was created as a joint venture between the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) and the Russian entities Rosoboronexport and Concern Kalashnikov.

What is Igla-S?

Igla-S Man-Portable Air Defence System is a Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) System manufactured by Russia.

Purpose: These missiles are meant to counter low-flying aircraft as the last line of defence against flying objects in a layered air defence system.

Range: It will have a maximum range of 6 km, an altitude of 3 km along with all-weather capability.

Click Here to read about KA-226T

India to release 5 mn barrels of crude from reserves in bid to cool prices

Source: This post is based on the following articles 

  • India to free up oil reserves to cool prices published in Livemint on 23rd November 2021.
  • India to release 5 mn barrels of crude from reserves in bid to cool pricespublished in Business Standard on 23rd Nov.2021.
  • “India agrees with the US, to release oil from the stockpile to cool prices” published in TOI on 23rd Nov, 2021.
What is the News?

India will be releasing 5 million barrels of crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves in coordination with countries like the US, Japan, China, Britain and the Republic of Korea with the aim of bringing down oil prices.

Why is India releasing 5 million barrels of crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves?

India believes that oil prices should be reasonable, responsible and be determined by market forces.

However, the oil-producing countries have kept the oil supply below demand to sustain high oil prices.

Due to this, India is particularly at a disadvantage as any increase in global prices can affect its import bill, stoke inflation and increase the trade deficit. 

How will this release impact India’s crude import plans?

India’s plan to release crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves is unlikely to change India’s crude import plans, as 5 million barrels is roughly equivalent to a day’s consumption in the country.

Hence, this implies that it is more of a symbolic gesture in tandem with the US, Japan and other major economies to come together against OPEC’s plan of keeping high crude prices.

India’s Strategic Petroleum reserves

India has built 1.33 million tonnes of storage at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, 1.5 million tonnes at Mangalore and 2.5 million tonnes at Padur (both in Karnataka).

This is the first time ever that India is releasing oil from its strategic petroleum reserves. 

India’s Dependence on Oil

India is dependent on imports to meet 85% of oil demand and 55% of natural gas requirements. OPEC accounts for a majority of India’s crude oil imports and around 40% of global production. 

According to data, India has spent around $62.71 billion on crude oil imports in FY21, $101.4 billion in FY20, and $111.9 billion in FY19.

India’s drug chase could be on the wrong trail

Source: This post is based on the article “BS Number Wise: India’s drug chase could be on the wrong trail” published in the Business Standard On 23rd November 2021.

What is the News?

Data shows that India is struggling more with opioid problems rather than cannabis.

What is the status of drug consumption in India?

Data: India’s National Crime Records Bureau has data on the number of drugs seized every year under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985. The data shows that over 60% of the total quantity of seized drugs in 2020 were cannabis-based.


Cases: NCRB data show that for the last few years India has recorded more cases for personal drug use than murder. Even, cases registered for drug trafficking are fewer.

What are the controversies surrounding the NCRB data?

According to research by Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy, it was found that the poor are forced to make false confessions and plead guilty for quick convictions.

An analysis of the 2020 numbers shows that the NDPS conviction rate is 81.6% overall and 86.7% for personal drug consumption cases. This drops to 44.1% for murder cases and 39.2% in cases related to crimes against women.

What is the Indian drug consumption status when compared globally?

According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s report  Magnitude of Substance Use in India 2019,’ India’s cannabis use is lower than the global average.

The report suggested India’s bigger problem is opioids, which cover opium, heroin and pharmaceutical opioids. Prevalence of their use in India is higher than in the rest of the world


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